Plans for the renovation of University Mall have been updated to address many concerns of neighbors, a recent community meeting showed.


Plans for the renovation of University Mall have been updated to address many concerns of neighbors, a recent community meeting showed.

Last Thursday night’s meeting at Oak View Elementary brought out a large, opinionated crowd of residents that would be affected by the changes to University Mall.

Rick Wolff of Geo. H. Rucker Realty Corp., the company developing University Mall, outlined the plan using many maps and in-depth slides. Many of the features addressed concerns brought up by neighbors at the Public Hearing on the topic in January.

“When you drive into the project it’s going to look literally brand new,” Wolff said. “The buildings themselves won’t look anything like they do today.”

Wolff said the Saxby’s Coffee in the center reflects the new signage and design of the entire center once completed.

Some of the buildings in the development will be silver-certified LEED buildings, corresponding to requirements for “green” buildings. One feature of that includes white roofs that will reflect heat, bringing down cooling bills.

After trying to meet with Giant, the anchor store of the center, for a long time, the developers met with them a few weeks ago. Wolff says that Giant plans to at the minimum renovate the store and upgrade it inside and out, moving the entrance out of the courtyard. Giant will also analyze whether they should expand the store. The renovation of Giant should occur at the same time as the rest of the center and be completed around the same time as well.

“We would prefer they’d have left so we could have gotten a new tenant,” Wolff said. “I’ve been hearing complaints since [the renovation discussion] began about how bad that Giant is.”

As part of the renovation, the shopping center will be leveled out to take out existing grade changes. Wolff said that all the stores will be at the same level instead of having different floors and staircases to get to them as currently exists.

Wolff also showed a map which highlighted the locations of all dumpsters, storm water drains and the decorative towers planned to be on the building. An expert at the meeting stated that the storm water facilities will be able to handle a 10 year rainfall or even a 50 year rainfall. Utilities in the area have been taken into account and no electric or gas lines will be disturbed.

At least 1,000 square feet in the development will be provided for community use. The county and other organizations will be able to use the space rent-free for meetings. They have not determined a mechanism for coordinating the use of the space yet, but Wolff suggested it could be organized through the Braddock District Office.

Wolff mentioned that the planners have had to take into account a 20-year transportation plan which could have traffic on 123 going over Braddock Road in a grade interchange. Meeting attendee Ginger Groeber instantly pointed out that the interchange is in a planning document but is not funded.

“This is not something the people that live around here have accepted is going to happen,” she said, remarking that the proposed interchange is not a done deal and is a hot topic in the neighborhood.

Wolff said that in any case, University Mall owners have to plan for that contingency. He said the building currently holding an M&T bank on the far northwest corner of the property would be demolished and a temporary road would be built through the west side of the property to allow traffic to continue along Ox while construction occurs. A new building for a bank would be built farther into the center and would be attached to a Wendy’s, both with drive-throughs. The developers are also planning the back end of the shopping center to be unfriendly for cars trying to cut through from 123 to Braddock Road. Wolff said this could be achieved by making the route convoluted and placing elements of the buildings in the way.

Reprinted from Burke Patch, read the article on their website here:

The developer has posted a slideshow of their plans on their website. View them here.